Checking In On… the WCCPosted by Michael Vernetti on January 28th, 2014
Michael Vernetti is the WCC correspondent for RTC.
Crystal Ball Time
With most teams in the WCC having completed half the conference schedule it’s time to do some end-game handicapping. Here’s how the rest of the schedule shapes up for the main players:
- Gonzaga, although sitting pretty at 8-1 with a game-and-a-half lead on Saint Mary’s, has a tough second half of conference play ahead. Its three home games should give the Zags little trouble, but road pitfalls could come against the Bay Area schools (Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Santa Clara), in Provo against BYU, and in the Jenny Craig Pavilion against San Diego.
- Saint Mary’s has an unfavorable (4/6) home/road balance ahead, but two of the road games are against nearby rivals San Francisco and Santa Clara. The Gaels’ main peril begins right now with four games in southern California and Provo. If Saint Mary’s comes off that journey intact, it will be well positioned to entertain BYU and Gonzaga at home.
- San Francisco also has a chance to do some damage against the leaders by entertaining Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s at home, but will be at risk on the road against BYU and San Diego.
- BYU is up against the wall no matter how you slice it because of its inability to win a single conference game on the road. The Cougars will certainly battle Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga tough at home, but its chances against the Gaels and Toreros on the road don’t look good based on performance to date.
- Gonzaga (18-3, 8-1)
- Saint Mary’s (16-5, 6-2)
- San Francisco (13-8, 6-3)
- BYU (13-9, 5-4)
- Pepperdine (12-10, 5-5)
- Portland (12-9, 4-5)
- San Diego (12-10, 3-6)
- Santa Clara (10-12, 3-6)
- Loyola Marymount (11-11, 3-7)
- Pacific (11-8, 2-6)
WCC News & Notes
- Gonzaga was teetering perilously close to picking up a second conference loss against San Diego last Thursday, but Kevin Pangos saved the day with an acrobatic drive and finish at the 1:27 mark to give the Zags a three-point lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Pangos, who looks as if he has withstood the worst effects of a turf toe injury that had slowed him earlier, followed up with a 24-point, seven-assist gem against BYU that led the Zags to a convincing 84-69 win.
- Saint Mary’s finished up a 5-1 homestand with an 89-61 rout of Loyola Marymount, and now must go on the road for the next four games. The Gaels’ last four wins came under Randy Bennett’s guidance following an NCAA-imposed five-game suspension, and they scored at an average of 84 PPG. That indicates that Bennett has tuned up the offense, and the pummeling of LMU, in which the Lions were held to 39.3 percent shooting, shows he has also tightened up the defense.
- San Francisco had just one game last week and they made it count, beating Bay Area rival Santa Clara by nine in a see-saw game that was closer than the final score indicated. The Dons were led by Cole Dickerson’s 28 points, and are hoping a two-game winning streak positions them for a second-half surge.
- BYU endured a three-overtime 114-110 loss at Portland last Thursday only to face a rested and confident Gonzaga in Spokane two days later. The Cougars battled hard but succumbed 84-69 as Pangos drilled 21-second-half points to bury their chances. BYU fell to 0-4 on the road, and their hopes of an NCAA berth might have fallen there as well.
- Pepperdine came into Moraga last Thursday intent on proving its 5-3 WCC record was no fluke and that it would be a contender for the rest of the year. Saint Mary’s outlasted the Waves by an 80-74 count, however, and the Waves struggled to a disappointing 76-66 loss two Pacific two nights later. They still have their sights on BYU, though, and a position among the WCC’s top four.
- Portland solidified its reputation as a place WCC teams don’t want to play with that epic triple-overtime thriller against BYU, but then couldn’t hold off San Diego two nights later, falling 65-63 when they appeared to run out of gas.
- Bill Grier’s San Diego Toreros accomplished what most would consider a successful trip to the Pacific Northwest, fighting Gonzaga to the wire in a three-point loss, then upsetting Portland. It’s about this time of year that San Diego usually goes on a winning streak, so WCC foes better take notice.
- Santa Clara looks more and more like Jared and the Helpmates, falling to San Francisco with only Jared Brownridge’s 30 points to brag about. Brownridge, the sensational freshman from Aurora, Illinois, also poured in 30 in the Broncos’ previous loss to BYU, but it hasn’t kept his team from losing four in a row.
- Loyola Marymount looks like a team seeking answers, as it dropped to 3-7 in conference play following a split against Pacific and Saint Mary’s last week. The win over Pacific seemed promising, but the Lions’ performance against the Gaels wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. One positive note is that a back-breaking six-of-eight road stint comes to an end against Pepperdine next Saturday – and that’s just down the Pacific Coast Highway.
- Pacific continued to underperform last week, splitting against LMU and Pepperdine and looking ahead to four games on the road.
Gonzaga heads into the Bay Area, where it has experienced trouble in the past, to take on Santa Clara on Wednesday (January 29) and San Francisco on Saturday (February 2), while Saint Mary’s travels to San Diego – where it has also had trouble – on Thursday and BYU on Saturday. Think BYU fans will remember last year’s half-court buzzer-beater by Matthew Dellavedova known as the “Dellavedagger?” Bank on it. It promises to be a trying week for the Gaels. San Francisco’s hold on third place will be tested by home games against Portland on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday.